By Monica Sanchez
On Sept. 19, Arcadia City Council held a public hearing to allow citizens to voice their concerns about the proposed maps for the inevitable district-based elections coming soon to Arcadia. This is the fourth public hearing that the city council held about the transition to district-based elections as the city council prepares citizens for the coming change.
As per the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA), district-based elections are meant to give support to minority groups in order to ensure that their voices are heard and not drowned out in local elections. However, concern for the transition from at-large elections to district-based elections lies in the controversy of whether or not drawing district lines divides Arcadia and breaks up the community.
City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto doesn’t think that “going to districts is actually the best case scenario for the City of Arcadia’s interests, but we are being forced to in order to adhere to laws that have been updated in the state of California and we want to stay on the right side of those laws.”
The transition has been a long process and is not official just yet because Arcadia City Council wanted to hear public comments and feedback while drafting district lines in order to be fair to all members of the community. Arcadia citizens can expect the at-large voting system to be replaced by district-based elections soon after the ordinance is officially adopted on Oct. 17.
In going through this transition to a new voting system, Arcadia City Council drafted 17-18 options for district maps, which were presented at a previous city council meeting, and they were narrowed down to seven different proposals that were released for public review. All draft maps, including the ones that didn’t meet the criteria, can be found online at arcadiaca.gov/districts.
At the city council meeting, there were already signs of division through disagreement among citizens and council members over which maps are most appropriate for Arcadia and whether or not some maps might cause gerrymandering.
Resident Marie Schultz believed that Arcadia City Council should give its attention to the “map proposed by the the city’s hired professional demographer. No public map should even be considered.”
And Mayor Peter Amundson declared:
“For me this has been a very difficult decision. And you know which map I want? I don’t want any of them. This should not be happening to our city. It violates our city charter. The people of Arcadia did not vote for it. I didn’t vote for it and I don’t think it’s good for Arcadia…One of the demographers once told me that the California Voting Rights Act was not written for cities like Arcadia. The majority of this council agreed that should there be a successful court challenge to the overstep of the city charter that we would revisit the issue.”
Still hopeful, the mayor is considering choosing a map that has the possibility of overturning district-based elections if the city is able to successfully take this matter to court later on.
There will be one more public hearing about this matter on Oct. 3, but Arcadia residents will experience their first district-based election in 2018.